Are you an Aspiring Writer?

I hear many people say they are an aspiring writer. I read a lot of blogs – by writers, written for writers – that talk about being an aspiring writer. But I disagree with that term, and here’s why.

To aspire to something is to reach for it, hope for it, dream about achieving it. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to greater things in life – in fact, everyone should have at least one or two things they aspire to. Otherwise you have no goals and dreams, and frankly, life’s pretty bland if you’re just existing.

So what if you’re wanting to be a writer? Well, let’s break this down. Do you want to be a published writer? Do you want to be a full-time writer (as in you’re published and selling enough to quit your day job)? Do you want to be a successful writer? (This means different things to different people. For some it might mean getting one story published in a magazine, for others it might mean having a book on the NY Times Bestseller list). Continue reading

When the Stories are Real

We’ve all read stories or seen movies that deal with great tragedies. Characters who suffer tremendous loss, through no fault of their own, whose lives get turned upside down by an unimaginable horror. We cry for these characters, identify with their pain even if we have never suffered what they have, and we cheer for them as they resolve to push through and emerge victorious in spite of everything.

The pain and empathy that we feel is often increased when we learn that the story is based on a true story, or inspired by real events. And then that pain and empathy is taken to yet another deeper level when it happens to someone you know.

There’s no shortage of pain and tragedy in the world, and everyone can probably point to someone they know (or to themselves) as an example. But just last week, I was stunned and horrified to learn of a great tragedy that hit my friend and fellow blogger Jessica Cangiano of Chronically Vintage. She and her husband lost their home and all of their possessions in a fire – personal belongings, the entire stock for her Etsy business, a lifetime of mementos and treasures, and one of their pets. Continue reading

5 Things Watching Sci-Fi has Taught Me about Writing

It’s no great secret that my favorite genres to read and watch are fantasy and science fiction. I’ve actually watched a lot more sci-fi than I’ve read (unless you count comic books). But anyway, I’m doing this post as a follow-up to last week’s post about things that Star Trek has taught me about writing.

For this post, I’ll branch out, and draw examples from some of my favorite sci-fi TV shows ever: Babylon 5, Stargate (all the series, but mostly SG1), and Star Trek (all the series, but mostly TNG). And don’t worry if you haven’t seen all or any of these – my point is to illustrate how good writing is good writing, regardless.

Consistency in world-building is vital to believability

This is the most important thing that I’ve learned about writing. Whether you’re writing sci-fi or a YA contemporary romance, a short story or a 10-novel series, you must be consistent within the world of your story. Consistency helps create credibility and believability, even with a fantastical subject matter. In Star Trek, regardless of which series you’re watching, the ships always fly with a warp drive. This is one thing (of many) that the audience can always expect from any story set in the Star Trek world.

Characters are what truly make the story

Citizen G'Kar of Babylon 5 may be an exotic-looking alien, but he's also a deeply complex, and surprisingly human, character.

Citizen G’Kar of Babylon 5 may be an exotic-looking alien, but he’s also a deeply complex, and surprisingly human, character.

Of course people watch sci-fi for all the special effects, the exotic aliens, and the epic space battles. And in books – sci-fi and otherwise – the adventures, snappy action, and rich settings are important. But without fully-developed characters, all you really have is a cool travel brochure of the world you’ve created. For a story, you need plot and characters. Readers and viewers need people they can connect with.

The three sci-fi shows I mentioned – Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Stargate – have no shortage of characters. What makes an engaging story is the relationships between the characters – their friendships, the different ways they handle challenges, their enemies, their likes and dislikes. In Babylon 5, the overarching plot is war encroaching on peace. But what makes the audience keep coming back for the next episode is not just the dramatic space battles and the epic story of the Army of Light versus the Shadows. It’s the characters who make up that Army of Light, the characters who have hopes and dreams and a reason to keep fighting. If the audience didn’t care about the characters, they wouldn’t care who won the war. Continue reading

5 Things Star Trek has Taught Me about Writing

While I could write about this subject at most any time, I thought it would be appropriate now, while we’re still celebrating the 50 year anniversary of Star Trek. I’ve posted many times about the writing tips and techniques that I’ve learned from the sci-fi show Babylon 5, but since Star Trek was my first science fiction love, I thought it was high time I give it its due.

So here are five things, in no particular order, that Star Trek (mostly TNG, but really, all the series) has taught me about writing and storytelling:

The importance of supporting characters

Everybody loves the heroes of the story, but supporting and minor characters help round out the world. Whether your story has an ensemble main cast (like Star Trek) or just one main protagonist, you need other characters to serve specific roles and to provide more opportunities for interaction and character growth for your main characters. With a longer work (like a novel, a series of novels, or a TV show), you have the opportunity to expand on the minor characters that come and go, and turn some of them into recurring characters. Continue reading

Autumn Sky

Not much of a post this week. My favorite season, fall, is almost here. Well, technically, it arrived a week or so ago, but in my neck of the woods the leaves haven’t started turning yet and the weather is just barely starting to cool down at night.

I’m always inspired by nature, so I thought I’d share a picture I captured the other day. Enjoy!

Where do you find your inspiration?

Follow your dreams!

Follow your dreams!


So What About Chapters in Novels?

For this post, rather than informing or commenting about a subject, I’d like to promote a discussion and ask for your feedback. I’ve heard about – and participated in – various conversations lately about the subject of chapter length – and number of chapters – in novels.

In my personal experience, I’ve read books that cover a wide range of formats for chapters. Some novels have dozens of short chapters, some have fewer chapters that are longer. Some start a new chapter for every scene, some have multiple scenes in a chapter. Some books have titles for each chapter, others simply number the chapters.

So what’s your take on this? Do you have a preferred method of formatting the chapters within your books? Do you have a preference in chapter number or length when you’re reading a book? Do you like chapters with titles, or do you not care? Do you think there are any “rules” that should determine the format of chapters within novels?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!